With a new, young coach and the legacy of the 2014 seniors, the Huskies basketball program is headed in the right direction.
The last time the Cardinal Huskies girls basketball program won eight games or more in a season was 2003-04, a 10-win season that included one tournament win.
It has taken 10 years to get back to that level. And seniors Brooke Hauser, Biz Timas, Christine Morris, Billie Jo Anderson and Kendal Gingerich are the big reasons why.
They will graduate this spring having beaten Berkshire twice and finishing with a 8-14 final record.
First-year coach Luke Kruse is another reason for the turnaround.
“(These seniors,) I’ve been really proud that they gave leadership to the team this season,” Kruse said. “Some of them were fighting through injuries, coming back from injuries, the way that they can finish out the season …”
Cardinal lost a one-sided tournament game to James. A. Garfield High School in Garrettsville last weekend. The G-Men won the tip, scored the first basket and went on a 49-22 lead, attributed to its size down low and outside shooting from its guards.
“I know they didn’t want to end their season like this,” Kruse said afterward. “We knew it was a tough matchup. We picked our poison. We tried to stop them on the inside and they beat us from the outside.”
It’s been a few days since that Feb. 22 loss, so while there were tears and hugs after the game, the Huskies realize this season was about accomplishing their big goal — beating Berkshire — and setting the tone for the next generation of players.
“We gave everythign we could, so …” said Anderson, trailing off. She said it was hard to lose, but that senior night was a special night for her.
“It’s rough, but looking back on it, this game doesn’t define us,” said Hauser. “Coming back from last year, my whole high school career, this is the best year yet. All we can do is keep improving. I’m glad I was the start of it.”
Morris scored 14 of her team’s 26 points, and was the only Huskies player who routinely was in a position to make good shots.
“It’s the worst feeling right now,” she said, sniffling. “This was the last game I’d ever play with my best friends that I’ve grown up playing with.”
Morris, who will major in nursing at Kent State University in the fall, said the players were a family this year.
“And it really shows when we play on the court,” she continued. “We don’t have just one individual player that’s doing everything. And it pays off.”
Gingerich missed most of the season with an injury but worked hard to return at the end of January, ahead of schedule.
“I just worked really hard,” she said. “I just worked really hard for each of these girls.”
She said she will remember the team and the seniors, choking up.
“We played together since we were in kindergarten, so I’ll remember that.”
Gingerich wants to walk onto the basketball team of Baldwin Wallace College.
Timas said knowing the close of her basketball career was nigh was a weird feeling. “The first last practice, going into tournaments, we knew this could be our last game,” she said. “It was a good season to look back on. Some of those intense games, I think about the good things about the season.”
The Huskies will likely return five letterwinners next season, sophomores Haley Adams, Emily Kruse and Kathryn Dhayer. Juniors Cheyenne Polverine and Jess Koches will be seniors. There will be others to plug into roles, coach Kruse said.
Emily Kruse dislocated her shoulder and missed the game.
“It’s a roller coaster ride, a little bit, for sure,” Kruse said of his first season. “But overall it’s been a fantastic experience. The way the girls bought into the program and into the hard work, I’m looking forward to doing more in years to come.”
The G-Men won their first sectional championship since 1997.
For photos of Cardinal’s entire season, including the game against Garfield, visit the photo galleries online at http://smu.gs/1hbGkCi.
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